Jeseye Tanner

Jeseye Tanner

The princess makers

Volunteer group gives girls a helping hand for graduation.

June will be a big month for Brittany Sand. Her son’s third birthday is on the 13th. Her own birthday, her 19th, will be June 22.

And on June 17, she’ll wear pink – with black shoulder straps.

“I didn’t think I was going to get a dress,” said the North Surrey Learning Centre student as she checked herself out in the mirror on Saturday at the Kennedy Seniors Centre.

“Look at the poof,” she beamed.

The single mom was among 99 girls who were treated to a day of selecting grad dresses, shoes and accessories courtesy of The Princess Project.

Then came the hairstylists and makeup artists, followed by official portraits.

All for free.

“It’s sooo pretty,” Serenity Endo called out to a friend. “You look like a princess.”

The 18-year-old, also from North Surrey Learning Centre, has been living by herself for the last four years.

At the gala, she was tended to by one of 125 white-clad “fairy gradmother” volunteers, and was taken through rooms full of dresses, jewelry, shawls, shoes and purses.

“Everything they pick up is theirs to keep,” said Karen Pruim, who is running her second year of The Princess Project.

Its based on the similar Cinderella Project, which has provided Graduation Day support for deserving girls for the last 12 years.

Pruim said she’s been given lots of support from that Vancouver group, who were forced to turn away some girls due to a heavy demand for the service.

Last year, she provided the dresses by appointment out of her Surrey basement – “I have a great husband,” she notes.

The dresses, which can easily cost $500 to $1,000 retail, have been donated by individuals and businesses. Most have been used only once.

“They’re expensive things,” said Emily Thompson, 19, a graduate of South Surrey/White Rock Learning Centre.

The girls, who came from as far away as Mission and Ladner, had to be referred to The Princess Project by counsellors, teachers or social workers who were aware of each girl’s financial or family situation.

“Some of the girls live on their own, some of them are young mothers, others live in families where they have to take care of their siblings,” explained Pruim.

As Langley Fine Arts School student Jeseye Tanner sampled the accessories, her mother Kaetlon said they would’ve had to go to a vintage or thrift store without the help.

“To be able to have this much choice is fantastic.”

Pruim said the quality of the garments is a priority.

Last year, for instance, she provided grad dresses to three of her daughter’s friends, and nobody suspected they were second-hand.

“There are so many kids who have everything that still don’t graduate. These kids have nothing and they made it. We want them to fit in, to feel like princesses.”

For more, visit www.princessprojectsociety.com

bjoseph@surreyleader.com